Despite spending less than six months with the Iron as a player, Paul Baker made a long lasting impression on everyone associated with the club at that time.
|During the coming days, we'll republish past interviews with legendary former Iron players from our matchday programme.|
He began playing non-league football in the early 1980’s before joining Southampton and then Carlisle United, where his career really took off.
He later enjoyed a hugely successful spell with Hartlepool United and then went on to represent Motherwell, Gillingham, York City and Torquay United.
Not long after joining the Gulls, Baker decided to look for a club closer to his north east home due to family reasons which is how his move to Scunthorpe first came about.
“My wife was pregnant with our third child and she didn’t want to move down to Torquay so I was on the lookout for a club up north,” he explained.
“I initially went over to Rochdale and had a chat with their manager at the time, Graham Barrow. It all went well but I told him that I wanted to have a think about it for a couple of days which is when I first came into contact with Mick Buxton.
“Mick knew that I was looking for a move back up north so he phoned me and asked whether I’d consider joining Scunthorpe.
“I went over for a chat with him and he just sold the club to me really so things went on from there.
“Mick offered me the chance to help out with the coaching side of things every now and again which really appealed to me. I’d done a little bit of coaching work before so I knew it was something that I’d enjoy.”
The striker scored a total of 14 goals in 26 games for United in what was one of the most prolific spells of his footballing career.
And somewhat predictably for a forward, the sheer amount of goals he scored in such a short space of time is something that Paul remembers most about his time in North Lincolnshire.
“My goals to game ratio was pretty good at Scunthorpe and I think the supporters recognised that because I always had a brilliant relationship with them,” he continued.
“I was 6ft 2in so I wasn’t going to be sprinting in behind defenders but I knew where the goal was and I always gave 100% which I hope people appreciated.
“I scored on my debut away at Hull City so I certainly enjoyed that one, particularly with it coming in a local derby match.
“I’d only met the boys a couple of days earlier and to be honest I didn’t realise how big the game was until I’d actually played in it but it was certainly a nice way to get my Scunthorpe career up and running.
“I remember scoring a couple of goals against Darlington for the club as well which was always nice as an ex-Hartlepool player!”
Another thing that springs to the forefront of Baker’s mind when reminiscing about his time in claret and blue is the level of quality within the playing squad during that period.
And he believes that the relationship he had with the team both on and off the pitch is what contributed to his overall level of enjoyment at the club.
He added: “As soon as I arrived and saw the quality of the players at the club, I knew I’d have to work very hard to try and force my way into the team.
“The likes of David D’Auria, Mark Sertori, Alex Calvo-Garica, Russell Bradley and Lee Turnbull were all brilliant and then we had Mick who was a great manager.
“It was good to play alongside those guys and also great to get on with them both on the pitch and off it.
“I bumped into Chris Hope a few weeks ago which was nice and I actually saw Alex Calvo-Garcia the last time I was at a Scunthorpe game. I usually see Lee Turnbull whenever I come back to the club as well which again is always a pleasure and there are others who I like to keep in touch with so I managed to build some really good friendships during my time at Scunthorpe.”
Following the departure of Mick Buxton during the early part of 1997, Baker found it hard to force his way into the plans of the club’s new manager, Brian Laws.
That coupled with a bad knee injury meant that his chances of playing for United again seemed increasingly unlikely and so Paul began his search for a new club.
“We were all a little bit shocked when Mick told us that he was leaving and then Brian came in with his own idea of how to take the club forward,” he said.
“Brian sat me down and told me that he was looking to bring other players in which I fully accepted.
“I had a knee injury at the time and I was doing a lot of work with Nigel Adkins to try and repair it so I could try and force a move somewhere else.
“Nigel was brilliant. He organised an operation for me over in Hull and worked really hard to try and help me recover so I have a lot to thank him for.
“Mick Tait, manager of Hartlepool at the time, showed an interest in me and it ended up being a bit of a race against time to try and get the deal sorted before the end of the transfer deadline.
“But eventually it all went through and the two teams agreed a small fee with Sean McAuley also joining Scunthorpe.”
Baker enjoyed a further two and a half years with Hartlepool and later re-joined Carlisle in 1999.
He then spent time in non-league football before moving into management, as he explains: “I wasn’t offered a new contract at Carlisle so I dropped down into non-league football but my age was catching up with me and an opportunity then arose to become manager at Blyth Spartans.
“I was at Blyth as a player when the managerial position became available so I just threw my hat into the ring and eventually I was offered the job.
“I later managed Newcastle Benfield and Newcastle Blue Star and really enjoyed my time with both clubs so it’s all a big experience that I look back on fondly.”